Ever since partition of India, Pakistan army has been waging a low intensity war on the Line of Control (LoC), ostensibly to complete what it calls the ‘unfinished agenda of partition’, the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan.
In keeping with its strategy of waging a low intensity war and ‘bleeding India through thousand cuts’, Pak army has been doing ISI bidding by keeping LoC active to facilitate ISI’s core terror groups like Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) & Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) to infiltrate and launch terror attacks on military and civilian targets anywhere and everywhere in India.
Blatant ceasefire violations, using heavy weapons to cause extensive damage, killing Indian soldiers and civilians on the borders, routine spate of incidence in the valley including SMHS Hospital terror attack and the stoning of security forces / army convoys are part of the same strategy. ISI has created terrorist groups as strategic assets against India.
Calling them good terrorists, it is infiltrating them into the valley to create mayhem. Infact LoC is the only domain in Pakistan which can keep ‘K’ issue alive in the eyes of international community. GHQ Rawalpindi is of the view that keeping India embroiled in cross-border tensions and state sponsored terrorism is a low cost, high pay-off option, to weaken and destabilise India.
That is why Pakistan is perpetrating a war like situation on the LoC. Another lucrative area for exploitation is the IB. It is largely Hindu populated sector. Targeting it causes civilian casualties, creates panic and problems of civilians’ safety for the state administration and New Delhi.
Pathetic scenes of panic, miserable living in temporary / transit shelters, cremation of martyrs and public outrage, projected in the media, affects human psyche. It turns the peace loving people violent and vengeful. Similar must be the feelings and the scenario on the other side but we can’t be oblivious to own sufferings.
Pakistan perceives India as an imminent threat to its existence. Its half a million army is deployed to ward it off. She feels that in the event of a major terror strike from its soil, taking it as a provocation, India may launch an Armoured Blitzkrieg, as retaliation, on multiple fronts to speedily overwhelm Pak military resistance, over run it and break Pakistan into pieces.
To defend itself Pak military has deployed some ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ on the vulnerable areas to thwart an Indian speedy ingress. (‘tactical nuclear weapons’ are short range, low yield, which are lesser lethal, cause lesser damage but do create an illusion of deterrence. They are meant to deter Indian retaliation against a major terrorist attack from Pakistan soil). That is why major terror attacks from Pak soil outside Kashmir have virtually frozen. Keeping Indo-Pak border mired in a state of cold war benefits Pakistan as stated atop. It facilitates infiltration, the hard punch of their strategy.
Now that the conflict has assumed the pattern of sub-conventional war the entire scenario has shifted to a ‘cold war era’ through proxies. How long will our army and civilians face it and what next? Today Pakistan is one up sub-conventionally. Pak ISI has made tremendous strides in exporting cross border terror into India.
They draw public support, kill security personnel and innocents. What should be done under the circumstances haunts mind when killings take place? Ironically India doesn’t have a clear policy to counter Pak strategy. India didn’t have disputed border resolution in mind even in 1972 when it didn’t leverage the fruits of 1971 victory over Pakistan to get an advantageous border settlement.
After all it was first time that India was negotiating from a position of strength and grandstanding with 93,000 military prisoners including the entire military and civil leadership having surrendered to Indian Army. India had also captured strategic locations in Kashmir and Ladakh and 9000 sq kms of territory in South Punjab and Sindh. This was the time to reorient our defence policy, rescue Kashmir from endless conflicts and insulate the state form cold war.
Similar strategic mistake had been made in 1949 by declaring a ceasefire in J&K when Pak raiders were on the run leaving 1/3rd under illegal Pak occupation. Another blunder was committed in 1965 by returning Haji Pir. During the Kargil War, India relented from opening another front and remained confined to the fluid LoC causing unwarranted attrition on the army and civilians in treacherous mountain warfare.
While startegising how to counter it, certain factors deserve consideration. Internally Pakistan is unstable and threatened. Elected prime minister has been sacked. US is after it. Four years of ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa against bad terrorists has not yielded.
Insurgency in Baluchistan, Talibanisation of masses, unrest in Sind and Gilgit-Baltistan, ethnic tensions and a weak economy could lead it to an implosion. Army is helping terrorist commander Hafiz Saeed led L-e-T to fight the election and become a political leader.
Narco-terrorism, the proliferation of arms, fake currency, trans-border money laundering, non-State entities challenging duly elected govts are globally known. Where is the strategy to exploit Pak vulnerabilities?
70 years down the lane we don’t have a defence policy. We had four Defence Ministers in the last three and half years. It pains to write that perhaps none of them would be able to explain India’s defence policy and how our army will fight two and half front war. It may amuse the readers that after independence when Gen Lockhart, then C-in-C of Indian Army, put up Indian Defence Plan before Pt.
Nehru, he was told to tear it off because India had no enemy. Nehru also told him to plan to disband the army as the police forces were competent to handle the internal problems. Today any Pak strategic expert can stand up in any global forum and clearly explain / justify Pak Defence Policy to defend its security interests. Our RM can’t even explain Rafael deal. India is possibly living in illusory defence.
LoC is an area to put India under collusive coercion. It will be used for targeting civilian population with its fallout on India’s fault lines. The question is how to raise the cost of this misdemeanor. Tit for tat to cause matching sufferings to the civil population is not the answer. The ‘quid-pro-quo’, if at all, has to be more effective.
Special measures be taken to restrict Pak army’s freedom of movement. ‘One Up’ policy must be exercised which would mean that in retaliation, weapons used should be of one higher caliber and the retribution must be swift, at multi-retribution points and effective.
So far as our defence doctrine is concerned, Army is adept at conventional warfare situations. It now needs to look at management of LoC and IB in cold war scenario. Such doctrines will have to be jointly framed by ministries of Home, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Social Welfare, NSA and Cabinet Committee of Security.
The doctrine so formulated should be able to catch the Cobra by its neck. India’s size, resources, capability are such that Pak can’t get the strategic dividends it seeks. Catching the Cobra also means going across and occupying tactically dominating features and altering the disputed LoC, if not IB. Volatility in the disputed LoC permits crossing it.
It also leads to another conclusion that South Asia will continue to be unstable for times to come. Be it Maldives, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh or Nepal. 2018 is likely to witness more infiltration, terror attacks and so on not in India alone but in our neighborhood also provoking armies to strike to destroy terrorist hideouts across their borders.
Our new doctrine should include helping the neighbors militarily. IB sector in J&K is thickly populated and National Highway passes closer to the IB. Hence IB needs reinforcements. More community bunkers and transit camps need to be built for the safety of villagers.